Nevada County Supervisors Approves Last-mile Broadband Grant

YubaNet has some details:

At Tuesday’s July 23rd Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board unanimously approved a contract with the Sierra Business Council (SBC) for the administration of the Last-Mile Broadband Grant program, a grant for the development and expansion of Broadband in Nevada County. The grant will be funded by what the County receives for transient occupancy tax (TOT), a tourism-related tax charged to travelers when they rent accommodations for less than 30 days.

[ . . . ]

“The $225,000 Last-Mile Broadband Grant is a pilot program to leverage County funds to support the development of Last-Mile Broadband infrastructure in the unincorporated areas of the County to promote economic development. Last-Mile refers to connecting the enduser or customer’s home or business to a local network provider. The development of Last-Mile transmission networks is the most cost prohibitive component of broadband expansion in Nevada County.

[ . . . ]

It is a 2019 Board Priority to support job-enhancing economic development with an emphasis on creating infrastructure and community partnerships with organizations such as SBC. During the meeting, the Board approved a total of $250,000 investment into economic development and broadband. Of that funding, $25,000 going towards SBC’s administration of the pilot grant program and $225,000 that will be available for the grant.

The full report is HERE.
It will be interesting to see how the Sierra Business Council leverages this one time grant of $225,000. The last mile is like apple pie, as everyone supports it. However, fiber to the home is bloody expensive, like Google and Verizon found out and shut down their fiber to the home programs as too costly.

Fiber to the home is expensive costing between $1200 to $1500 per household, excluding any electronics needed to make the connection. That is the cost per connection when the fiber is in the street, in rural neighborhoods, the driveways can be quarter of a mile long. The primary cost component is labor to dig the trenches and lay the fiber. Or, hang the fiber on existing poles, which introduces another cost, rent for the use the poles which belong to other companies.

An alternative approach is to use wireless technology for the last mile connection. Wireless technology was used by the Beckville Network to tap the VAST middle mile network. The estimate network cost for ten homes was $10,000. That is $1,000 per connection. More here. As it turns out, the tall trees are limiting the expansion of the network to cover more of the neighborhood, requiring major network upgrades and more cost. The final cost per home is still unknown.

The Sierra Business Council was preparing a Broadband Strategic Plan for Nevada County to be published in August according to Peter Brown, the project developer. It will be interesting to see how symbiotic the Strategic Plan and the Nevada County Economic Development Grant are.

It is not clear how SBC should spend the broadband economic development grant, nor what the success criteria will be? How will citizens know the $225,000 resulted in economic development? How many last-mile connections, and at what cost? And, what wireless technology will best serve the community, as there are last-mile technologies in the market that cannot provide, the FCC minimum speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.

Many of these questions could be answered when the Nevada County Broadband Strategic Plan is published. Stay Tuned.

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